Little Tern Management

Subject: Little Tern Management
Date: Wed, 21 Jan 2004 19:31:29 +1100

Hi concerned birdos

Although the destruction of the Little Tern colony at Wallaga Lake was a tragedy for the birds and the local volunteers as well as the general public, all is not lost.  The story itself has raised the profile of the little tern in NSW to an unprecedented level.  It is incredible how much publicity negative human stories generate.  Foxes have wiped out hundreds of nests and eggs on the south coast of NSW, but despite many news releases, few stories make it to the mainstream media.

 About 70 chicks have fledged on the south coast of NSW from Wollongong to the border so far with more to come.  20 of which came from Wallaga Lake before the destruction.  Considering that the Little Tern was down to about 110 breeding pairs in the 1970s this number is quite significant.  

After analysing all the data collected over the last 5 years for little terns in NSW, I calculated that the present population in NSW is about 460 breeding pair and increasing.  The increase in the population is a result of active management at nesting sites over the last 10 years, including fencing, signs, fox baiting and wardens at major locations such as Sawtell, Harrington, Botany Bay and Lake Wollumboola.  The increase in population has seen the resettlement of past nesting locations, such as The Entrance, Byron Bay, Wallagoot Lake, Mogareeka and Windang at Lake Illawarra where terns have not been recorded nesting for 40 years.

For the last 3 years the South Coast Shorebird Recovery Program funded by the NSW Fox Threat Abatement Plan has been able to focus on other sites that were previously considered too small to worry about including Wallaga lake.  Another site was at Wallagoot Lake in Bournda National Park that produced 109 fledglings alone last season.  The program also focuses on other beach and estuary nesting species such as the Hooded Plover which is down to less than 50 birds from Jervis Bay to the border.  These guys really need some help.    

Many people are totally unaware of our beach nesting birds, but when shown get quite excited by the presence of a rare bird breeding on their beach.  At Windang the colony attracted much media attention including television and newspaper stories when it was highlighted that they had not nested there for 40 years.  Some people said that we should not of highlighted the presence of the colony at this may attract bad people.  The fact is that if we had not fenced and signposted the colony the eggs would have been lost in a matter of days.  As we were putting the fence up 2 hovercraft came scooting over the sand spit and into the ocean.  Other threats were the local lifesavers on their quad bike and the hundreds of beach walkers and their dogs.  The media attention attracted a large number of sightseers to the colony including some families that brought picnic lunches.  Although the birds were regularly spooked from their nests no eggs have been lost to exposure from the sun or cold.  It is the friendly visitors to the site that are the greatest police.  They are also good at chasing away ravens.  We are currently up to nest 29 with only 2 lost to a quad bike and one abandoned.  20 chicks have been banded by the famous Darryl McKay and are currently hiding in the flotsam and jetsam placed in the fenced area by committed local, Ian Shaw.  Ian spends a few hours a day talking to the local beach users about the birds.  

The risk of attack by humans to a colony is always present but unfortunately in this day and age it just has to be factored in with all the other threats affecting our beach nesting shorebirds.  That is not to say that perpetrators will not be dealt with if caught.  The purposeful destruction of a threatened species in NSW can result in a fine of $100 000 and/or 3 years in jail.  The NPWS is well aware of the situation at Wallaga Lake and has an investigator working on the incident at present.    

If you would like an electronic version of our newsletter please forward your email address.  It should be out soon.....

Also if you are  interested in securing some funding for a shorebird project, now is the time to do it.  Applications close for NHT funding at the end of January.  (not much time)

here is an excerpt from the website

The 2003-2004 Round Two of the Aust Gov Envirofund applications are open and close on Friday 30 January 2004.

While government agencies can not apply there are opportunities to apply in partnership (as a secondary partner) with a community group for projects upto $30,000.

Preference will be given to
  • projects in coastal and marine areas;
  • projects related to activities that benefit natural wetlands;
  • projects in the rangelands; and
  • projects that involve indigenous people.

     go  to the website at



    Michael Jarman
    Shorebird Recovery Coordinator
    South Coast Region, Ulladulla
    Parks Service Division
    Department of the Environment and Conservation
    Ph: 4454 9516

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